The ultimate tropical paradise, this archipelago of over 500 islands boasts of white sands and turquoise waters that are spectacularly stunning. And you can blissfully soak it all in from the idyllic palm-fringed shores! Despite being small in size, the Andaman Islands are full of surprises. Here are 10 interesting facts you didn’t know about the Andaman Islands.

#1 Bengali is the most widely-spoken language here

You probably thought that the most widely-spoken languages across the Andaman Islands would be Andamanese or Ongan. Wrong! Bengali is the most dominant language, followed by Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.

#2 Commercial fishing is banned in the surrounding seas

In an effort to preserve underwater flora and fauna including indigenous marine life like dugongs and giant sea turtles along with its rich coral reserves, commercial fishing in the waters surrounding the Andaman Islands is banned.

#3 Andaman has Asia’s only active volcano          

On the uninhabited Barren Island, about 135 kilometres from Port Blair, is where you will find Asia’s only known active volcano. Barren Volcano first erupted in 1787 and then in 2010—an eruption that lasted six months. It’s known to spew lava in smaller eruptions since then.

#4 It’s illegal to interact with the Jarawa tribals

In parts of South and Middle Andaman Islands, the nomadic Jarawas are a protected tribe whose population ranges between 250-400 individuals. Any attempt to interact with the isolated tribe, who themselves shun contact with outsiders, is deemed illegal.

#5 Andaman’s name has its origin in the Ramayana

Ever wondered how the Andaman Islands got its name? It’s believed that it’s a derivation of Lord Hanuman who halted in the region while on his way to Lanka. Famous islands including Neil and Ross are named after British engineers, dating back to the East India Company. Who knew!

#6 The islands were an active war zone during World War II

The serenity of the Andaman Islands was disrupted during World War II, when Japan controlled the region before giving it up to the British in 1945. The Museum of the Japanese Occupation in Port Blair documents the events of the active war zone at the time.

#7 Andaman is home to the largest crabs in the world!

The hermit crabs, or Birgus Latro as they are scientifically called, are the largest known anthropods that stay mostly on land. They are also known as coconut crabs, robber crabs and palm thieves. The Andaman Islands are home to the highest number of these crustaceans.

#8 Parts of Andaman Islands sank underwater after the 2004 tsunami

The devastating 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean did a lot of damage to the Andaman Islands. There was both loss of life and land. The tsunami that followed the earthquake took away 4.25 metres of land from the archipelago’s southernmost tip known as Indira Point.

#9 The islands are a nesting site for the endangered leatherback sea turtles

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living turtles. That’s quite a distinction! Every year, they make their way by the hundreds, if not more, to the Andaman Islands to nest here. To give you an idea of how huge they are, adults average a size of between 1-1.75 metres in length and between 250-700 kilograms in weight.

#10 The mud volcanoes of Andamans are the only ones of their kind in India

Believe it or not, but the sight of bubbling mud is a major attraction in the Andaman Islands. The mud volcanoes on Baratang Island are the only ones of their kind in India, and are formed because of chemical reactions between water and gases under the surface. Spewing once in a while, the mud craters are quite the geological phenomenon.